Startup Indian operator Okwu Mobile is preparing to launch 4G-enabled mobile phones on the local market, according to CEO Anshuman Atul. “We have four different handsets planned at certain time intervals during the coming first operating years,” Atul says. “Initially, we will go on shelves with one 4G smartphone under INR 8,000.00 (US $120.00) category.” Okwu, which is expected to launch services in India before the end of this year, will offer an inbuilt service center application called Ucare, which will enable customer service personnel to get remote access to users’ smartphones, as well as offering consumers doorstep service for hardware repair. Okwu also plans to offer apps to support various IoT accessories, which it plans to roll out at different stages during the first year of operations.
Okwu Mobile is aiming at budget-minded customers in the Indian market, and as it prepares for launch, its strategy appears to be twofold: to emphasize the emerging consumer IoT sector and to offer own-brand budget 4G smartphones. Here is yet another example of the trend we have seen across many markets in the developing world—in order to create and maintain viable 4G networks, operators have to make sure that devices capable of fully utilizing those networks are in the hands of their subscribers, who traditionally have favored non-4G and even non-smart devices for reasons of price. As budget handsets become more widely available, particularly from Chinese manufacturers like Xiaomi, operators are partnering with manufacturers to distribute and subsidize such devices. Okwu, however, is taking a somewhat more bolder and more direct approach by launching its own affordable 4G-enabled smartphones, which, although they will at least initially be manufactured in China, are a venture of Okwu itself and will carry its brand. This could help the brand establish itself more firmly with consumers as the operator enters the marketplace, as well as promoting uptake of 4G services.